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Continually improving: Westwood takes WIC to 4 sets before falling on volleyball court

Westwood freshman Madison Marta, left, and West Iron County junior McKenna Kegley, right, battle for the ball in their volleyball match on Thursday night, Sept. 19, 2019, at the Patriots' gym. (Journal photo by Ryan Spitza)

ISHPEMING — Westwood High School volleyball head coach Milton Braga called Thursday’s home match against West Iron County his team’s best performance of the season.

After a slow start, the Patriots took the Wykons toe to toe for the remainder of the evening before falling short in four sets.

West Iron (2-2) won 25-19, 18-25, 25-21 and 25-16.

Westwood (0-5) appeared to wake up after the Set 1 loss, when it was down by as many as 10 points, and roared back to win Set 2. From that point on, the match remained tight.

The Set 2 loss was a familiar one for Wykons head coach Brenda Grubbs, but it also seemed to get her team back on track to take the final two sets.

“Historically, when I come here, there is always one set that’s just haywire like that, where we can get nothing to flow,” she said. “Historically, my teams have always had one set like that. Then we just come back, get back into a rhythm and do it again.

“I don’t know what it is. Confidence, mentality, we just can’t get the ball to fall right in those situations.

“It’s important not to hang your head. We just keep coaching and telling them ‘We’re not done yet’ and we just keep working.”

Braga credited his team for a hard fought battle in front of a strong home crowd.

“It’s the best they’ve looked all season,” he said. “I see that every day in practice, but for some reason they haven’t gone out and done it in a match.

“(On Thursday), they brought their best. It was an exciting thing because both teams played awesome. It wasn’t only a great game to play, but also for the crowd to watch and get into. The girls were motivated by the crowd.

“I’m looking forward to the remainder of the season. It looks like we’re in the right direction now. Finally.”

Braga added that his girls were a bit worn down by the fourth set, but it was no reason to hang their heads.

“It was toe to toe to the end. The second set, we got them. The third set was all the way to the end. The fourth, we were a little tired. Maybe because of the heat, I don’t know, but they still mixed some good volleyball stuff in there.

“We’ve just got to keep working. We’ve got practice (today), we’ve got a game on Tuesday against a really good Gwinn team, and as long as we play our ball, win or lose, I just like to see the effort.

“I’m really proud of the girls and I wanted them to know that was really good volleyball. It was very competitive on both sides.”

The Wykons pulled away for their Set 1 win, which ended on a kill from senior Courtney Reitmeyer.

The Patriots claimed Set 2 on a double-hit violation that led into a third set that was nothing short of competitive.

With the Wykons up 19-18, a kill by Westwood junior Shianne Rodda knotted things up before West Iron tallied the next three points on an attack error and consecutive service aces from Reitmeyer to go up 22-19.

Westwood got within one point at 22-21 on a kill from senior Kaitlin Ackland before the Wykons notched the final three points of the set on a kill from junior McKenna Kegley and two attack errors.

The Patriots went down swinging, slowing the Wykons out of the gate in the fourth set by taking the first four points and going up 5-1. West Iron earned the next five, taking the lead 6-5 on a service ace from junior Jordan Shamion. The teams remained deadlocked before the Wykons went up 12-8 on an ace from Reitmeyer, sending Westwood into a timeout.

Westwood could only get within four points the rest of the way, and the match ended on a block from the Wykons’ front line. Ackland led the Westwood attack with nine kills and seven aces while junior Livvie Wood and senior Lily DeLongchamp added two kills apiece. Wood had two aces to DeLongchamp’s one.

Defensively, Ackland and freshman Madison Marta had five blocks each while Ackland added a dig. Rodda had four blocks and three digs while junior Angelina Heinzman led the digs department with five.

Stats for West Iron County weren’t available.

West Iron County goes to the Forest Park Invitational on Saturday while Westwood visits Gwinn on Tuesday.